Uganda: game of cat and mouse with the terrorists

Status: 20.11.2021 11:14 a.m.

The Islamist ADF militia has been terrorizing people in the Congo for years. Now she is also suspected to be behind the latest attack in Uganda with three dead. How do the countries deal with the terrorists?

By Antje Diekhans, ARD Studio Nairobi

At the beginning of the week, the Ugandan capital Kampala is being cleaned up: three suicide bombers on motorbikes blew themselves up – in the middle of the city center, near the parliament and the central police station. Three people were killed and more than 30 injured. The mayor of the borough is shocked: “It’s horrible to look at,” says Salim Uhuru. “I lost a friend of mine, a police officer. If these people manage to detonate a bomb this close to a police compound, it shows how serious the situation is.”

Antje Diekhans
ARD-Studio Nairobi

It was the bloodiest of several attacks in Uganda within a few weeks. The authorities blame a group called the “Allied Democratic Forces”, or ADF for short. The militia has its roots in Uganda, but now operates primarily from the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Three people were killed in the blasts in Kampala and more than 30 others injured.

Image: AFP

Allied with the “Islamic State”

“The way in which the attacks were carried out clearly indicates that forces belonging to the ADF militia were behind them,” said police spokesman Fred Enanga. “We can see that in the construction of the explosives.”

In 2019, parts of the extremist group allied themselves with the IS militia, which officially claimed responsibility for the attacks in Uganda. How strong the connections actually are, however, is controversial. Brigadier General Flavia Byekwaso of the Ugandan Army said on the British broadcaster BBC that the Islamists operate from underground: “These are sleeper cells. They get their instructions from the Congo. We have to turn them off now.”

Security forces killed several suspects after the attacks. Including a Muslim clergyman whom the police identified as the instigator. More than 20 suspected extremists were arrested.

Killed about 900 people

The ADF militia has long terrorized the people of Eastern Congo. The organization was founded in the 1990s by Muslim rebels in Uganda. After several defeats by the army, she withdrew to the neighboring country, to the region around the city of Beni.

Destroyed villages testify to the atrocities committed by the militia. Thousands of people fled. An old man leads a Belgian film team through an abandoned settlement: “These houses were all inhabited. But now there is none,” he says. “When the resident of this house heard gunshots, he hid under the bed. But they found him, attacked him with machetes and then shot him.”

According to UN information, the ADF militia killed around 900 people in the Congo last year. In response, the government imposed martial law months ago. But she did not achieve much with it. The militia is increasingly expanding its radius of action to include neighboring countries. According to the authorities, she is said to have already planned attacks in Rwanda. Several suspected ADF members were arrested there in early October.

Border security as a delicate mission

Soldiers from Uganda are already supporting the Congolese army in the fight against the militia. A Twitter entry by President Yoweri Museveni suggests that this commitment is now to be expanded: “The terrorists have invited us,” he writes. “We’ll come to get her.”

Brigadier General Byekwaso believes that such a mission will not be easy: “The border with the Congo is very long.” They cannot be completely secured. “The terrorists can always get into the country somehow. If we want to prevent further attacks, we have to stabilize the situation in eastern Congo.”

However, one of the world’s largest blue helmet missions by the United Nations has been trying to do this in vain for more than 20 years.

Terror in Uganda – Who is behind the attacks

Antje Diekhans, ARD Nairobi, November 20, 2021 10:19 am

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *